One of my favourites is the Oldham Bookmark Festival which we’re holding for a fourth time later this month. In a short space of time it has already become a mainstay of our programme and has proved hugely popular with families.
Given the countless volumes of council reports I work through each week it still amazes me that I never seem to lose any of my love for books. That’s probably because reading isn’t just something I have to do or a chore, it is a real hobby and passion for me like it is for so many others.
I’ve also always believed that a child with an appetite for reading is one that is likely to have an appetite for learning – and that can give them a great start in life.
Growing up on Alt Estate, I can still clearly remember how captivated I was by reading JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit for the first time. I went on to read his Lord of the Rings trilogy too – and enjoyed it – but it was The Hobbit and the escapades of Bilbo Baggins that I found myself going back to time and time again.
In more recent times I became a late adopter of a Kindle e-book, so now the only books I buy in hardback are cook books – and far too many of them, according to my husband!
I know some miss the feeling of the book in their hands and the joy of storing their collection on the shelves, but for me – especially when packing for holiday – the way I can simply download a whole range of books is a modern joy.
I read across a wide range of literature, although fiction and autobiographies tend to be my favourites. One of the best books I read recently was ‘I am Pilgrim’, the debut novel by Terry Hayes. I also like Barbara Vine – a pseudonym of Ruth Rendell, well known for Inspector Wexford – and her darker, psychological thrillers. And I’ve also recently revisited John O’Farrell’s ‘Things can Only Get Better’.
Everyone has their own taste and favourite genres, of course, so the beauty of the Oldham Bookmark Festival – which runs from April 21-29 – is the sheer variety of speakers, authors, workshops and performances on offer.
This year’s festival kicks off with a visit from Alastair Campbell who will be discussing his most recent book ‘Winners and How They Succeed’ which examines what it takes to be successful in politics, business and sport. He is, of course, better known as Tony Blair’s ex-spokesperson but since then has written six volumes of diaries, three novels and a personal memoir about depression and mental health issues.
If that’s not your cup of tea – and I realise it may not be for some(!) – then there’s a whole range of other highlights to enjoy like visits to Oldham by Guardian columnist Erwin James and blogger Emily Morris.
There’s also the opportunity to spend an evening with some of the best crime writers around, including Elizabeth Haynes and Rachel Abbott, talking about what it is like to write for a living.
Highly Suspect are also returning and taking their new murder mystery evening to Molino Lounge at the Old Town Hall with a special Harry Potter themed event.
If you’re more into classic literature then you might enjoy a special workshop exploring the writing techniques of Anthony Burgess, or the talk by Helena Kelly explaining what she believes to be the ‘secret radical’ side of Jane Austen that might just send you scurrying back to re-read her works all over again.
Popular author and illustrator Nick Sharratt – best-known for Shark in the Park and Ketchup on your Cornflakes – will be at Oldham Library, as will CBBC book club presenter Katie Thistleton who will be playing some intriguing games with her audience and talking about her new children’s book.
You can find out more about all the events – and how to book tickets – by visiting http://www.oldham.gov.uk/bookmark
Books are brilliant for so many reasons. They can give you escapism, insights into other cultures and lifestyles or places, and – best of all – expand your horizons.
We’re blessed with a brilliant library service in Oldham which isn’t just about books: they host live theatre, author visits, storytelling sessions and all manner of useful events all year round.
To keep in touch with what they’re up, follow them on twitter @oldhamlibraries and like them on facebook.com/oldhamlibrary service